My helpful screenshot

The influence of money in politics goes back thousands of years, and very likely longer. We try to make institutions that can run properly, making good decisions. The American form of government has done pretty well over the years, despite the influence of money (“buying votes”).

Can we do better? Quadratic Voting is an attempt to do so. Basically, the cost of votes goes up quadratically with the number of votes you cast. You can cast as many votes as you want, but it will cost you.

One of the coolest variants I heard, Quadratic Vote Buying, is quite simple: you can spend as much money on votes as you want. All the voting money is returned equally to the whole voting public (whether they voted or not). So, as an example, assume there are 10 voters, and I’m one of them. Everyone except me casts 1 vote, and I cast 10 votes. My 10 votes cost me $100, and all others pay $1 each for their 1 vote. At the end, each of us gets $10.90 returned. So I might get my way, but you get my money to cushion the blow. And with a lot of voters, it’s still really hard to get your way if it differs from the majority. In fact, that’s the point; in current systems you can buy elections, in Quadratic Voting, it’s harder, but it’s allowed.

I want to do my own explorations into this idea, but in the mean time, here are some things you can read. Or the names you can Google include:

  • Glen Weyl
  • Steven P. Lalley
  • Rory Sutherland

The first reference I saw to this was on Marginal Revolution, but it’s been around for a while, I just missed hearing about it.


Quadratic Voting. Eric Posner piece written when the Weyl/Lalley paper went up.

My thoughts on quadratic voting and politics as education. Tyler Cowen weighs in on QV.

Humans are doing democracy wrong. Bees are doing it right. Article in the Spectator on learning from bees when it comes to voting.

Square Dancing Bees and Quadratic Voting. Article commenting on the Spectator article.

An Alternative to Democracy?. Freakonomics weighs in on Quadratic Voting.

The Good Way to Buy Votes.

Research Matters: Eric Posner on “Quadratic Vote Buying as Efficient Corporate Governance”.

Collusion In Quadratic Voting.


Quadratic Voting - Hacker News.

Quadratic Voting - Reddit


Quadratic Voting. The 2014 paper from Lalley and Weyl.

Gauging the Efficiency of Quadratic Voting. Lalley and Weyl.

Voting Squared: Quadratic Voting in Democratic Politics. Posner and Weyl.


The Fable of the Bees, Bernard Mandevill, 1714, 1732. Also see Wikipedia article. This influenced Adam Smith and later John Maynard Keynes.